'Criminal Minds' preview: Ken Olin turns to Hotch and Co. for help -- EXCLUSIVE VIDEO

On this week’s Criminal Minds, Hotch and Co. will head to the eastern shore of Maryland where a father (Ken Olin) needs the team’s help to search for his two teenage daughters. The twist in this tale? The girls’ mother went missing exactly a year before.

“The idea is what’s going on with the father? Is he a serial offender or is he the unluckiest man on the planet and the victim of a serial offender?” executive producer Erica Messer says of the episode, which she wrote and was also the first episode of the show to be directed by star Thomas Gibson, who Messer says “rose to the occasion” on his first outing.

“I think it was great for Thomas who’s, obviously, been with us from day one, to sit in the meetings we sit in 24 times a year to make these episodes and to really see the behind the scenes,” says Messer of Gibson, who previously directed two episodes of his previous show, Dharma & Greg. “Of course he’s seen it for 180 episodes on this series and on others, but it’s a totally different thing to be in that seat where, as a director, you’re responsible for every single thing on that screen. That means there’s a lot of questions on your way and a lot of responsibility and a lot riding on your decisions and choices.”

Messer said it was also a unique opportunity for her to work closely with Gibson on the writer-director level. In fact, she postponed her scheduled writing slot in order to continue a mini tradition she started when cast member Matthew Gray Gubler directed his first episode back in season 5. “Technically, I should have written [an episode] earlier in the season, but Thomas was going to be directing [episode] 15, and I wrote Matthew’s first one with Simon [Mirren]. It’s just a nice thing to do so that the director and I can sit down and talk versus the director, the writer and me,” she says.

Having Thirtysomething alum Olin as a guest star in this episode was a bonus, she adds. As an actor-director himself, “he knows what those shoes are,” says Messer, “so there was a shorthand that he and Thomas had that was really nice to watch. It was sort of an unspoken [dynamic].”

Check out an exclusive clip from the episode below:

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